Coffee growing on the Bolaven Plateau, Laos
Rising to an elevation of 1,350 metres, the beautiful Bolaven Plateau region in Champasak province, Laos, is perfect coffee growing country. With cool temperatures, rich volcanic soil and plenty of rainfall, the conditions are just right for the cultivation of world-class coffee beans.
Realising the potential of the area, in 1915 the French colonialists originally brought coffee to the region from the botanical gardens in Saigon. Yet it has only been the last twenty years that the coffee industry in Laos has really taken off, now generating around 20,000 tons of coffee each year!
Joma Bakery Café & Fair Trade Arabica Coffee Beans
Beneath the lush, shady forests of the Bolaven Plateau, the Jhai Coffee Farmers Co-operative (JCFC) works with farming families to produce special Fair Trade Arabica coffee beans.
Canadian run, Joma Bakery Café, has been a huge supporter of JCFC Fair Trade beans for over seven years. You can enjoy cup after delicious cup of organic Arabica Coffee at one of their branches in the charming French colonial towns of Vientiane or Luang Prabang.
With 80% of the coffee that is grown in Laos being Robusta, the Jhai Coffee Farmers Co-operative are one of the few groups in the area that produce the ‘specialty’ Arabica beans, renowned for their medium body, mild citrus and floral flavours.
The JCFC received the certification in 2005 to recognize their ongoing efforts to ensure a higher sale price for the local farming families. Many of the families living in the Bolaven Plateau region are ethnic minority groups, such as Mon-Khmer and they rely almost entirely on coffee harvest for their income.
Organic, environmentally friendly & a distinctive taste
Jhai coffee trees are shade grown, which means forests are not harmed by planting the coffee trees. Rather, the forest actually helps the coffee trees by giving much needed shade from direct sunlight and helping to balance the soils nutrients. This mutually beneficial environment also maintains the natural habitats of native birds and insects. The Arabica plant has been found to thrive in these elements, yielding one of the world’s most rare and distinctive coffees.
The cool, lush coffee growing region of the Bolaven Plateau, Laos
Tourism & the Support of Local Communities in Laos
Although Laos is becoming more developed in terms of tourism in recent years, with backpackers leading the way in many ways, it is important to remember that Laos remains one of the poorest in the world. It is a country that holds some of the most alarming statistics, including the record for being the most bombed country on the planet!
Projects such as JCFC are few and far between in protecting local people against the negative side effects of rocketing development and consumerism. It is a great inspiration and hope for the future of the country that here on the Bolaven Plateau, crops are being grown with local people and the protection of the environment in mind.
Joma Bakery Café owner says, “Our business is about supporting local people and economy. As tourism continues to develop in Laos, the demand for quality coffee will also increase. Working with projects like JCFC allows Joma to provide top quality coffee to our customers while supporting Lao communities fairly and sustainably.”
At the moment, Joma Bakery Café is also working with various other local organisations including Hagar International, an organization that supports the recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration of women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse and are in danger of human trafficking.
The project recently partnered with Joma in Vietnam to open up opportunities of employment for women who have suffered badly from human rights abuse. ‘Career Pathways’ is a job-readiness program that gives women the skills they need to be financially independent and filled with hope once again.
Served by friendly and skilled baristas, you can sip the aromatic organic Arabica coffee knowing that your purchase goes into sustaining the environment and helping local communities in Laos!
Joma commits to giving 2% of every sale back to the people and planet through various organisations in Laos and Vietnam. Eat, drink, give. 2% People & Planet. You can read more about their projects and how you can help via the Joma Bakery Café website.
Photos in this article by Sarah Williams